“Welcome to the Tokaido, the legendary East Sea Road connecting Kyoto to Edo. Here you will begin an extraordinary journey during which you will discover a thousand marvels for the first time.
Be sure to take the time to contemplate the sumptuous vistas before you: the majestic mountains, peaceful coastland, and vast rice paddies… Let the brushstrokes of nature be an anchor for your memories.
Appreciate the beneficial stopovers that punctuate your path, the restorative tranquility of the hot springs, and the countless culinary delicacies that will astonish your palate.
Bundle together with your belongings delightfully unexpected souvenirs, from the most modest to the most sophisticated, that you gather from surprising encounters that may change the course of your travels.
Time will be your best means to remain clear-sighted, methodical, and patient so that you don’t miss anything on this unique route but instead can fully savor the experience the Tokaido has to offer!” – Description on FunForge, publisher
Early in 2015 I picked up the game Tokaido, designed by Antoine Bauza, at a board game cafe. My boyfriend and I read through the rules and deemed it a bit too complicated to learn and play in the limited amount of time we had at the cafe. We were ecstatic to see Geek & Sundry’s TableTop play Tokaido
on its season 3 premiere! After watching Wil Wheaton and friends play the game, we knew we had to try playing it (and a little piece of us regretted not trying at the cafe)! The absolutely gorgeous Japanese art direction and motif was just too hard to resist!
Fast forward to 2016, after several months of picking up the game at game stores and debating on spending the $45 to buy the game, a friend of mine gave us the chance to play! And it was everything that I dreamed of.
All of the players play as a Japanese tourist taking the East Sea Road pilgrimage. The objective of the game is to have the most fulfilling trip out of the group. How can you make your journey fulfilling? You can go shopping, you can visit the temples, you can go to the fancy banks, you can paint lovely scenic landscapes, and you can even take a relaxing bath in the hot springs (and hope some monkeys decide to join you). And of course you want to indulge on some of that delicious Japanese food. Depending on your character’s ability, you may get extra points or perks for visiting certain place on the way to Edo.
One of the rules I did not know until it was too late was there is no “turn order” like in other games – the FURTHEST player from Edo takes their turn. So hypothetically, you can go twice in a row if you are the last person on the road… Because of this mistake, I essentially had to wait for all the other players to have two turns before I could go again. That was an excruciating mistake, and might have been what lost me the game (I lost by ONE point, tying for second place), so if you play: DON’T FORGET THE LAST PERSON ALWAYS GOES FIRST.
I played the geshia character Sasayakko. Her abilities allows her to obtain a shop item for free if she buys two or more (wahoo, BOGO!). It was a very helpful trait to have, but she is very reliant on making it to the shops. I should mention that there is only space for no more than 2 players per place, so if there were already two players at the shop, I was a little more than screwed. Her ability makes it very limiting to gain those extra points because there are other characters who rely on shopping mechanics as well. If possible, having a character that doesn’t rely too much on shopping may be the way to go seeing that is the main consumption of your limited supply of money.
One character I really liked was The Old Man Mitsukuni, which my friend played. Mitsukuni gave her an extra point for every hot spring and every achievement (earned at the end of the game) she gained. While half of us were looking and fighting for shop spaces, she took advantage of the empty springs and enjoyed the company of a lot of monkeys. This kept her always right behind on the leader board. Plus Mitsukuni has a pretty decent amount of starting coin so it wasn’t anything to be concerned about until the very end while seeing what food she was able to buy at the inn.
What I love about this game is there are so many ways you can earn points. Every single destination (minus the bank, but the bank is very very helpful) will give you at least 1 point. Add in the abilities of your character and if you have the other parts of a certain set, you can get over 10 points in one turn! The variety of options affects the competitive aspect of this game. Everybody has the same goal, but there are several different ways to reach that goal. Different characters will need different strategies to come out on top. Everybody is working towards completing their own strategy so it gives almost a “if you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone” mentality… Until you get that one player who says: “I’m going to go to the shop so that way you can’t go to the shop and win the game”… (Admittedly I’m a pretty competitive gamer, to the point where my competitiveness can get in the way of the my level of fun, so this aspect helps to diffuse the competitive and the increase the fun)
My absolute favourite part of this game is the art direction and design, done by Xavier Gueniffey Durin. Just look at these:
It is GORGEOUS. It looks like the designers had an idea and pulled out all the stops. All of the graphics have that classic watercolour and paint effect on it, making it look like your classic feudal Japan citizen sat down and painted all of these images on a scroll. And it is all over the board from the character cards to the design of the coin to the images on the destination cards
When it comes to games – both board and video games – art direction and overall look will influence my decision a lot and level of enjoyment. I personally love cartoony looks more than realistic, and extra points for Japanese motifs, which is one of my favourite aesthetics in the art world, so Tokaido earns extra brownie points in my books. The aesthetic of this game alone could convince me to buy the game if it wasn’t as fun as it is.
I highly recommend this game to everybody, adults, children, friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, pets, EVERYBODY. It is easy enough to play once everything is set up (and if you don’t feel bogged down by time restraints) and you finish drooling over the graphics.